It’s the GOD in her. She’s more than a plus-sized supermodel, she’s a brand. Chasity Saunders is from the small town of Roanoke, Virginia. Chasity has been “on,” as they say; with spiritual guidance and determination to do what ever she sets her mind to, even through the testing times. She gives hope that there can be great happiness and success after a loss and devastation.
Chasity began in college, Norfolk State University, majoring in theatre. When her major was dropped from NSU’s curriculum she decided to take the leap and get into radio hosting. After her college graduation she took the biggest leap and moved to the Big Apple, New York City and launched her career in modeling, acting, and hosting. Since then, now living in L.A., she’s BOSS moves, navigating through this industry. Today, Chasity Saunders is a TV host, Actress, Journalist, Curvy Coach, Businesswoman, and a genuine-hearted Queen. With her brand constantly growing and evolving, Chasity uses social media to inspire the uninspired. “If I can do it, you can do it too,” all while being a black plus-sized woman in Entertainment.
I commend Chasity for her undeniable strength and courage to continue to overcome every trial, tribulation, and adversity that comes her way. Chasity and I chatted with all smiles and cheer; read on to witness the glow up!
PYNK: When you’re stripped down and no makeup, what is one word you would use to describe yourself in that moment?
Chasity Saunders: I have four, but I think the first word that I would use would be conqueror. I also put fighter, courageous, and beautiful, but if I had to choose one when I’m all the way stripped down, I would say conqueror.
PYNK: Tell me about the beginning of your career and getting started in the industry.
Chasity: I always wanted to work and thrive in the entertainment business, but I also always knew that being educated and knowing the business of show business would be as important. I was actually discovered at the age of 17, when I was approached by Wilhelmina Models, and I asked my dad about helping me to get professional images done for my first portfolio, but it was also my senior year in high school, at the time. I’d already been accepted into Norfolk State University and my dad basically told me that he would either finance my portfolio for modeling, or buy my books and get me situated with my dorm room for college, but not both.
I chose that going to college would be the best thing for me, before moving to New York through my career. So, then four years later, when I first got to New York, I was working in my first corporate job, which was assisting the Vice President of Programming and Production at Music Choice Television, and this was also year one for the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, where I was on the planning committee. I was one of their first radio personalities for their radio show. Radio was something I had already experienced in college because I was an on-air DJ, but I soon after branched off to start my own media company in New York called Avenue Pink, where I could get my own opportunities, where I wasn’t really given opportunities to do hosting, which is something I really wanted to do.
In the midst of all this, I heard about an open call at Essence Magazine. This was maybe six months after I’d moved to New York, and they were looking for curvy models for a denim story, and that has always been my dream. So, fast-forward, I booked the job over hundreds of other models and hopefuls that I was up against, that were both … At the open call was amateurs, and then there were also girls that were professionals that were already signed there.
From that first fashion spread in Essence, which was in 2009, I was introduced and signed with my first modeling contract in New York, and then that led to my first national fashion campaign, which was with Ms. Tina Knowles and Beyoncé. That got me traveling the world, being in magazines, on television appearances all over, and that was basically the latch of my professional modeling career.
PYNK: You’re from Newport News, right?
Chasity: I’m from Virginia. I’m from Roanoke, Virginia, but I went to school in the Norfolk, Virginia Beach area, so a lot of people do think I’m from that seven cities. That was also where I had my first dabble in entertainment cause I was on the radio there when I was in college.
PYNK: What were some of the experiences you had to endure along the journey that may have been hard or tough?
Chasity: I’ve definitely had to teach myself how to be resilient in an industry that’s not always kind or welcoming for black women, especially curvy black women, or women that are not already connected in some way, or attached to someone, or a group of people that are already connected. So, I’m still oftentimes the only black plus-sized model on a set. Even when I’m doing hosting, TV hosting, or red carpet interviews, and I’m invited to interview A-list celebrities for various media outlets, I’m oftentimes the youngest or the newest journalist in the room. I would most definitely say that I’ve absolutely had to work a bit harder, longer, and more strategically in order to make a name for myself, and to build a brand, and stay relevant and beneficial. I’m not only a model, but I’m an influencer and TV host, an entertainment journalist, and I’m also an actor so I just feel like being multi-dimensional has been a huge factor in enduring the pressures of always having to be on in the entertainment industry, and always having to be perfect for what any given client is looking for at any particular time.
One of the most exciting parts I feel about being an artist, is that it’s a freelance business, and it’s ever-evolving and changing, and sometimes you’re hot and other times not so much. It’s like you’re almost always being judged and competing for campaigns or projects, not only on your appearance, but your ability, and also in this business, it’s about your connections, and not really about who you know, but about who knows you. Then, let’s not forget about the huge factor of social media and followers, and how much that now plays a huge part quite honestly, in how your network or your following can be beneficial to your clients and/or brands that you’re working with.
I feel like over the years, I’ve had some amazing highs, but I’ve also endured extreme lows. I felt targeted and hated on by people in positions that I thought would maybe wanna help me, but instead tried to block my blessings, which you know, obviously didn’t work but could sometimes feel like the end of the world at the time. I’ve had an agent and even fellow peers try to sabotage me in different ways. I’ve been told that I was not enough, and more times than not, that I’m too much. I’ve been told that I’m too big, even been told that I’m too small at times, too young, and even been told that I’m too old. I’ve been tested and stretched in this industry in more ways than I can count, and I’ve lost out on opportunities and even TV show pilots that never made it on air, but I think the biggest heartbreak that I’ve ever had to endure was losing my father three years ago.
I lost him to a senseless act of gun violence that has now just changed my life forever. So that really took every single fiber in my body … I know a lot of times people will talk about different challenges that they’ve had to endure in the industry, but I really feel like that it’s … When something happens that rocks you to your core, that hits you through your gut, it’s gonna be family or the loss of something or someone. That’s what it really was for me, and it kind of took every fiber in my body to keep going after having such a tragedy happen to me. Even today, it’s like I’m taking every single day to get stronger by the day, but I miss my dad tremendously. He was my biggest supporter and my number one fan, so now it’s like I’m happy that I have him in Heaven, up there moving mountains for his number one girl, but I really just sometimes wish that he would be here with me. I think that it’s important for people to know when you’re going for a dream, life is gonna happen to you too, and you just have to know who you are and just continue to listen to god when he says, “Yes.”
Nothing and nobody, no circumstance can stand in your way of what he’s gonna do and what that purpose will be, and how he’s gonna fulfill that. I just believe in myself and I just try to follow my heart and my purpose even through heartbreak and loss, and just situations happening. I’m still here and living, and loving what I do, and working on being my happiest self every day. I just think that I’m not surviving in this industry, fashion, and entertainment, but I think I thrive in it.
What a lot of people don’t know is when my dad was killed, it was a senseless act of gun violence, it was at a place in our hometown, and I was actually there when it happened. Six people were shot and two people ended up dying. My dad and the other person who died were both innocent bystanders, and something I always just remind myself is that for whatever reason, god doesn’t make mistakes. He decided my dad had already lived his purpose, and that I still had purpose in me because I could have been taken that day too. I just always am aware of that too. I was so close to him, I couldn’t imagine getting that call. It was the worst feeling to be there, but also if I had to get the call, I think that would have even been worse; but I digressed. That wasn’t always there. I didn’t plan on saying that but it just was on my heart.
PYNK: Do you ever feel like you’re the elephant in the room, especially in the fashion industry? The fashion industry can be so cruel and of course, being black and also being curvy or a plus-sized model; do you ever feel the pressure?
Chasity: Absolutely. I’ve been on television shows and on sets where I was the last to be worked on as far as beauty, like hair and makeup. It’s like they see you there and they keep skipping over you no matter when you arrived to set, and sometimes you have to end up going on without even being worked on. I’ve been overlooked completely in situations like that, and even mistaken as entourage instead of talent. I’ve also had stylists that knew that there will be a plus-size model on a particular set in advance, and did not bring wardrobe for me or either brought in the wrong sizes. So, I’ve had to wear my own clothes literally in a national campaign. I will not say which one, but I’ve been in national campaigns where I literally had to wear something that I already had in my bag because there was nothing there for me.
I’ve even had to have clothes cut in order to fit onto my body, where half of my body is literally hanging out the other side. So, let’s just say I’ve had a bit of everything in my model bag after experiencing such horrific circumstances over the years. I’ve also been really fortunate to work with clients and brands that actually love me and they love my big, beautiful body and my big, beautiful personality. Those are the days I live for, but unfortunately, not every client feels that way, especially when it comes to black models and/or plus-sized models. I’ve had women that I looked up to in the industry and admired for years, to be absolutely disgusted with me. Instead of embracing me, they completely dismiss me, kind of the very opposite of Black Girl Magic.
It’s just like not everybody is that way, but it’s definitely happened, and it’s with people that you would identify the same Black Girl Magic with. Again, that will remain nameless, but I’ve also interviewed some of the biggest stars in the world that treated me less than and judged me. I don’t know if it had anything to do with me being black and plus-sized, but I’ve definitely felt that way. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.
I’ve had fashion spreads that I shot, and then I’ve gone to the newsstand to pick up the magazine only to find out that my images were scrapped and never made it to print, with no explanation at all. So, instead of being embraced as a beautiful, young, black, ambitious, curvy woman with confidence, I feel like I’ve often times been overlooked or judged as being overly confident and maybe thinking too much of myself, like okay, who does she think she is? With me, it’s just like I’m me, and I’m gonna unapologetically be myself every single day, in every way because I feel like I’m an expression of god’s love on earth. I just wanna continue to live in my truth and push past all the negativity that I sometimes have to face, and only just decide to embrace positive vibes and energies into my life because I feel like I give 100 percent every time I do my job. I think I do my job quite well. For me it’s just about doing my job, doing it well, and keeping it moving because life is just too short to be worrying about anything other than pursuing your happiness.
PYNK: With that, how do you deal with all the ridicule or all the looks, all the negativity? Is it just prayer or how do you get past it?
Chasity: Yeah, let’s just say I pray and I meditate every day. I start my day with something I call the power hour, so it’s 20 minutes of prayer, 20 minutes of meditation, and 20 minutes of reading. I try to read something that’s gonna inspire me … I love Joel Osteen’s, I Declare. I have certain books that I really, really love that I keep on my nightstand and I just start my morning with that. I just try to operate in excellence and let my work speak for itself because a lot of times, people don’t wanna give you a chance but once they see your work, it’s undeniable.
I’d be lying if I said that my feelings haven’t been hurt, or to say that I’ve never shed a tear over the way that I’ve been treated at times because yes, I have, I’m a human being. I also think it’s important to allow yourself a day or so, or even a few hours just to let yourself experience how someone else’s nastiness has negatively affected you so that you can make it a point to never, ever do that to someone else; especially because not everybody is as strong or has been empowered enough to keep going. I think that the reason why a lot of people give up is because it’s not an easy business to be a part of, and you have to have super tough skin.
I think prayer is my most important thing that I turn to, and my prayer for other people is that they keep going and not to let anyone steal your light or your dreams. As a matter of fact, I’ve oftentimes changed someone’s opinion of me within just having a ten minute conversation with them. I encourage others to look past any other issues, to have the courage to remain courageous, and authentic to you. Just know that those tables, they always turn, and when they do, to just continue to be your awesome, bubbly, amazing self, and just try to have a heart like Jesus. Show people love and light anyway because there are so many people that are dealing with so many different things at any given time. I try not to take anything too personally, and I know that even if somebody’s been nasty to me, it probably has absolutely nothing to do with me. I feel like the best revenge is no revenge at all. Just to continue to live your own amazing, beautiful, blessed life, and then watch how god advances you by doing that.
PYNK: Would you say that is your advice for someone especially in your situation that may feel less than, or that they’re not beautiful?
Chasity: Absolutely, and I know that we’re all so different. When I first started modeling, the only major example I had at the time anyway was the fact that Toccara was on America’s Next Top Model, and she was like the first plus-sized model on America’s Next Top Model. I remember being in college and being like, I’m gonna move to New York, I’m gonna pursue that dream. Find this one person that you can emulate, not imitate, but emulate. See somebody else’s energy and courage, and say, “You know what, I can do this.” That’s what I hope to be for other people. When little girls come up to me, and they either see me in a mall at an Ashley Stewart or in an ad, and they take the photo and they send it to me, that makes me feel so amazing to see a young girl out there who knows that she doesn’t have to be a size zero to be a model. She can be curvy, and beautiful, and own who she is, and still have a career.
I think that the biggest misconception in the world is that we feel like we have so much time, and I think that we should get busy doing what we feel our purpose is. I think a major part of my purpose is to inspire other beautiful, brown girls that look like me to know that they can have and be anything that they wanna be.
I think that as a black plus-sized woman you may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but that’s okay. I think it’s never about anybody else’s opinion of you because that’s not really your business. I think that other black plus-sized women should just focus on the fact that they’re beautiful and special, and to know that they were created by someone that does not make mistakes, just to own and embrace your own uniqueness. Even if it’s at your most awkward moment, just know that you’re special and beautiful, and never forget that the word “plus” itself means more. So, that’s more light, more love, more beauty, more everything. So, I just wanna make sure that plus-sized women know that they’re special and unique.
PYNK: Do you feel like the pressures have gotten easier with time, or do you still deal with that just as much as in the beginning?
Chasity: Yes and no. Doors have definitely started to open more overall, but not for everyone. These’s still work to be done, and I think that ethnicity is still a factor, and I also think that size is still a factor. I think the fight has most certainly begun, and I feel like I’m in the thick of it hopefully, changing the industry for the better and championing for those that have yet to have a seat at the table, but even those of us that have a seat at the table, we’re still doing work. As an influencer, just last week I was brought in on a major deal that’s happening with one of my fashion clients. So, I model for them, but they also bring me in when they’re pitching a junior plus line. So, I can’t say the name of the brand, but you and everybody out there would know this brand. It’s a huge brand that does not service plus-sized.
Basically, I was brought into this meeting to talk about why it’s important for people to have inclusivity when it comes to fashion, when it comes to young girls. We don’t always wanna look like we have on our grandmother’s muumuu. We wanna look fabulous and we want it to be affordable. Yes, there are some brands that are out there now that have younger, funnier things for the curvy girl, but a lot of those brands are at a price point that the average woman, the average college student, the average junior plus customer cannot afford, or just not have access to. I use my voice, as being a model for almost a decade and working in the entertainment realm to say, “We’re here, we’re the consumer. We have plans and we love to go on dates and brunches, and we wanna be able to have clothes that are affordable and accessible for us.”
So, I think it’s so important to be able to have a seat at the table and to be brought in on big, huge meetings like that, where they’re flying their entire executive team and buyers out to L.A. from Arkansas or wherever they were. I think it’s still a huge conversation because this brand was basically saying, “We wanna make a step in the right direction, but my job is on the line,” and I think that’s the issue. A lot of times people want to see the change, but they don’t wanna be the person because they’re scared if it doesn’t work, what will happen. Unfortunately, for black plus-sized women, we’re the last to be included on that fashion spectrum, and I love that so many people are empowering themselves and starting their own boutiques and things like that, but it needs to be done at a larger level and that’s where I’m hopefully helping to make change.
PYNK: Speaking of changes that you’re trying to make, if you could change one thing what would that be?
Chasity: I think I would definitely change the politics that are involved in the fashion industry. I wish that things were decided solely on an individual basis as far as the talent and the need, without all the politics. I love Ashley Graham. I’m girlfriends with Ashley Graham. We work together in New York, and I’m so happy for her. I mean, if nobody deserves to have the career that she’s having right now, she’s doing so well and she’s able to be a huge voice for the plus-sized community, but she’s just one person and there needs to be more. Even she has said she has girlfriends that are black, that don’t get the same opportunities as her, yet they’ve been modeling just as long and some of them are signed to the same agency. She realizes there’s some type of difference when it comes to her being a beautiful, curvy Caucasian girl opposed to another one of her friends or peers.
So, I feel like yes, we are making good changes, but I think if I could change one thing, it would be the politics because there’s a lot of things that go into who they decide is gonna be the one and the only, when there’s room for so many voices, and so many body types, and so many ethnicities. I just wish that there weren’t so many politics in place so that we could have more images out there that represent the everyday woman, the all-American girl, and the girl that deserves fashion whether she’s a size two or a size 22.
PYNK: What is your favorite asset about yourself?
Chasity: I didn’t get this far when I was trying to work on this before, so this is kind of off the top of my head. I would say my favorite asset about myself; I would say is that I’m a winner. Winners, we just find a way to win no matter what. I try to just be resilient, and I try to stay passionate about the things that I’m involved in, and I just feel like that’s a winner mentality, that’s a winner’s spirit. I feel like I have that winner mentality and that winner spirit in me. I think it’s like a part of my DNA, and it’s just embedded. I know I’m a kingdom kid too, I know I’m so covered by god. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know god is using me and that purpose in my life, and I guess knowing that is my favorite asset.
PYNK: How important is social media to your image?
Chasity: I think that social media is something that I care about because well, it’s a part of my brand, realistically. I think that social media is like the new-age calling card, the new-age business card; it’s a resume of sorts. I’ve also done social media cleanses and fasts, just to give myself a break from what I consider the matrix because I think that social media can be super tricky. All of my agents and my managers, they’re like you need to be posting, you need to continue to work on building your following, and I know all of those things are important because that’s what brands are looking at nowadays. How many followers does a person have, how many comments are they getting? I think that we need social media, I also think that you’d be silly to not adapt in this age where social media’s so important because I think if you don’t adapt, and then you become extinct.
I also think that these days, I feel that they’re more important in making sure that you have balance in your life because to be honest, it’s social media and it’s a network of people curating their lives and their businesses, but it’s not 100 percent reality. I think that I use those platforms, and I use all of the platforms that are available to me, but I also feel like social media can be a huge distraction from things that are really happening in the world. I try to keep myself very worldly and to know what’s happening outside of just being glued to my phone all the time. I think it’s a distraction sometimes, social media, from reality and real life. I think it’s super important that we not judge ourselves too harshly or place too much value on the existence of social media. Yes, I care about it, but I think that there are also a lot bigger things happening to give just as much energy to.
PYNK: What else are you embarking on next?
Chasity: I’ll be interviewing Tyler Perry tomorrow, so that’s really exciting.
PYNK: Is it your first time meeting him?
Chasity: This is my first time meeting him. I’m very excited. I’m very, very excited because my acting coach was like; you need to tell him that you’re in my master class and that he needs to hire you. I was like, and I am going to tell him.
PYNK: So, other than interviewing Tyler Perry, what else is going on in your world?
Chasity: Well, I’m currently working on crossing over from model to actor. I’m enrolled at TSAW in the master class with coach and actress and producer, Tasha Smith, who is amazing. I’m just really, really loving exploring just my artistry in that class. I’m having a great time. I’m also contributing as an entertainment host and journalist, most recently featured as a contributor to the iconic Ebony Magazine. I did … Yeah, I’m so excited.
I just did the October and November 2017 cover story where I interviewed Chadwick Boseman. It’s called Chadwick Upped His Game, and I sat down and interviewed him about his new role as Thurgood Marshall, and also his upcoming 2018 film, Black Panther.
Then of course, last but certainly not least, I still have a professional working career as a plus-sized model. I see on average three to four times here in Los Angeles with about five different clients that I currently have. So, modeling is still going extremely well and I would never, ever turn my back on modeling. I think I’ll be modeling well into the rest of my career, but I just wanna really, really work on crossing over and doing more things as an actor and entertainment journalist.
Also, shout out and give some love to the modeling agency that I’m signed to in L.A., MSA Model LA (@msamodelscurvela).
Oh and one last thing as far as upcoming projects, I’m currently filming season 2 of my YouTube show which I’m a host and co-creator for @officialviphappyhour that will be released at the top of 2018!
PHOTO CREDIT(S): Chasity Saunder’s IG